So did I paint something?

Yeah, I did actually get up the next morning and start a painting. I was all revved up and hungry to create!

What I craved was a HUGE canvas…a meter wide, a meter and a half tall, that sort of thing…a wall that I could walk up to and engage, throw myself at, mano a mano…arms moving in great sweeping arcs of brushstrokes. Looked everywhere on the boat…was so sure I had some huge canvases left over from my last show. Nothing.


What I found were scores of tiny little canvases…mostly the size of a paperback book…and one, just one, tall, skinny canvas—30 cm wide, and 60 cm. high. (1′ x 2′). Oh, that’s right…instead of buying one wonderful, epic canvas for $30, I thought I’d be clever and buy 10 dinky little ones for the same price. Fool. So much for my grand date with creative destiny. I felt so restricted and cramped with this small canvas! My sweeping gestures were reduced to finger-daubing and dabbing with medium-sized brushes.


And the process? Hrrm. Well. I started out the way Downey did in her video…all energetic abstract doodles and splodges of color. I even hit a few spots with water in a spray bottle to make the paint run. Drips. Very outré, drips in paintings, oh my. Yes, yes, everything was feeling very loose, very spontaneous, very earth goddess, moon mother, loose caftans and jangly earrings. There were lots of fantastic body gestures…it was almost a modern interpretive dance. I even played the one song I own that is by Loreena McKennit, can you imagine? Instead of my usual Radiohead, The White Stripes, The Commodores, and One Love Sonic Boom mixes.

Great. Then I started painting in some simple motifs…leaves (ovals with one pointy end) and flowers (ovals with pointy one end), birds (ovals with one pointy end and a tail like a platypus bill), sprinkles of dots and organic shapes sort of thing. Get this, I even flicked runny paint at the canvas, a la angry young men in movies about artists (then “Eep!” Wiped most of it off again.) Art? Who said anything about making art? I was acting out the artist stereotype. I was being ‘creative’. To anyone who may have been watching, I was also being a wanker.

No actual attempts to draw anything or produce something skillfully. No attempts to find a symbol or a subject that actually meant something. It occurred to me that the motifs that came easily to mind were very hackneyed. (That must be why they came so easily to mind, Einstein.) At this point I started to feel like a fraud. Lotus flowers, are you fucking kidding me? Lily pads? What has this painting got to do with me? Do I sound like a Southeast Asian Buddhist to you?

And the painting, ye gods. Did I really channel the aesthetics of the entire Balinese Airport Artists Cooperative? This looks like the stuff they churn out in Thailand to decorate restaurants with. I’m amazed there aren’t any koi in the pond under the lily pads, or bare-breasted women in those pointy golden pagoda hats. “WHAT, NO KOI? Can’t be a proper Asian restaurant painting without the koi! People need something to look at while they’re slurping their tom yums and pad thais!”

Traditional Thai art paintings
Traditional Thai art paintings

But I have chosen to leave the painting alone. May it serve as a lesson to me…what works for others may does not work for me, and shame on me for letting someone else’s style bear too heavily upon my own.

The result may look okay to you, reading this, but believe me, the painting is empty, devoid of soul or self. It’s a lie. Just because it’s an okay-looking lie doesn’t make it right. The paintings of a large molar and two chairs were more honest than this. At least they came from my own head, and weren’t trying to please anybody. I’m going to let Donna Downey’s wonderful video cool off in my head for a while, then I’m looking forward to another session—I’m still inspired by her video!—this time just being myself…don’t matter if it’s fugly. At least it’ll be my own. Kinda like having an ugly child, I guess. 😀

13 thoughts on “So did I paint something?

    1. I did think of that when I finished…your tattoo. Maybe I consciously miss you! No, there are no limits to the way you can paint a lotus, if you are genuine and if you avoid whatever comes easily because you’ve seen it a thousand times. The limitations in this painting are my own. :/


  1. I enjoyed this post. And I had a look at your molar and chairs. Great! Be yourself. But of course the painting on this post nice, so colorful. 😉


  2. Yes,thank-you for this post. I also got the artist’s book who inspired this painting from interlibrary loan– I loved it, but at the same time, the temptation to copy what she was doing instead of my own style of artwork is huge. It would have nothing of myself in it. I felt the book would have been better with more examples of other artists’ work as well, rather than overwhelming its readers with all one style. Take what one can from the ideas, but it’s not the only kind of surrreal/abstract way to paint! Don’t get tied down in the fog of “my painting must look like ____’s work to be successful.”

    In fact, this reason alone was 9/10ths why I did not draw seriously during my early childhood and tween years, only really getting started around seventeen or so. There’s nothing like starting an artist’s block by saying “I can’t even copy this artwork style, I may as well give up.” That kind of comparison attitude takes a lot to overcome, mentally.


  3. I so completely get what you mean about it’s nice but it isn’t you… I am that way with my art journaling.
    Your painting does have some lovely swirly color (especially top left corner) aside from the Thai tourist pamphlet stuff you don’t like… I agree with the others, sleep on it a while (well not LITERALLY!) and something might come of it. It’s still miles above what I could ever do!


  4. I’m so glad I found your blog again. I also got inspired to create after watching the video, but I resisted the urge. I’ve been reading the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron in an attempt to filter out all of the white noise (from YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, twitter, and blog upon blog) that I’ve been so drawn to. I’m probably over thinking it but reconnecting with my ‘inner artist’ is such a pain. There are so many outside influences to get caught up in. All in all, I said all of that to say I feel your pain. Lol


    1. LOL So funny, when it’s not as though anyone’s threatened to kill us if we don’t become better artists. How we complicate things for ourselves, eh? Good luck with your Inner Child, hope you get along okay (mine hit me in the eye with a pea in a slingshot…I was a difficult child. lol) Thank you, lovely, let’s exchange pains. 😉


  5. When I get the urge to do something B I G I start with a roll of wallpaper lining. I tape a series of strips together and work fast with dilute dyes and ordinary wax crayons. It’s very ‘freeing’, doesn’t waste good materials, and will create a few areas that are worth using as inspiration in a real ‘work of art’. I try to do it outside as it can be messy, but with all the rain we’ve had that’s not been easy recently. Don’t write your piece off! Live with it for a while. I have a feeling it will become more ‘you’, even if you just paint it over with gesso and start again. If you do that, preserve the photo. I bet you will use elements elsewhere. Well done!


    1. The voice of reason. I WAS trying to be funny, really, I wasn’t pulling my hair or anything 😀 And yes, you are right, I like little parts of it, but on the whole I don’t like it at all. So “look out, Ma, here’s your birthday present!” Just kidding. I’ll show it to Kris and ask him what to do with it. And I’ll try to do a lot more painting, I have a roll of plotting paper somewhere that I can happily trash. Thank you for these regular comments where you talk some sense into me. You must have the composure of the Queen, I’m starting to think. Queen Serene. 🙂


      1. Hahahahaha! Just don’t tell my DH

        I’m always inspired by other artists, and it’s so tempting to ‘copy’ their style or colour scheme. I’m too old to do that now – I just go my own way and I don’t mind redoing something that isn’t working. My 5 year old grandson summed it up the other day. ‘Grandma, art is easy’.

        If only he knew.

        However, I’m sharing one of his ‘easy’ results shortly on Chittle Chattle, and of course, he’s quite right. 😉

        Just make sure that you don’t give up! You have talent.


  6. HI Nat this got me thinking to something someone said to me once about when you really really start to paint and let yourslef go, you have all this eurgh paiting that has to come out, whether its pigeon toed girls with big eyes or angry bitumen spirals or big red gashes or bleeding pelvises on chequer boards, even white rabbits in tropical forests (tick for all the above) you have to let it all out and work through it until youre done . Same for poets writers and musicians, Ive heard. I kind of confessional, self portrait, nasty and embarrassing….so bring it on , lotuses first, decaying reed beds, squashy roots, dancing pixies, haloes and auras. Its all inside you and let it out, I say. Just saying. happy new year by the way. Dont be alone; if u fancy a landlubbing expereince come over to rapid creek and hang out in my aoir con studio for an arvo and we’ll do art torgether…sorrt for all typos, IM sure u will be able to tread! Alisonxxxxx


    1. Ha ha ha, Alison, I KNEW you would comment, didn’t think it would be seconds after I put this post out! Yeah, I suppose, all that conditioning has to come out…all the rubbish that we’re bombarded by, the stereotypes of beautiful, the symbols and styles that have been flogged for generations because, at some point in the past, they were original, and yes, really beautiful. You’re right, mate, but i can’t afford to devote a dozen canvases to restaurant decor! LOL I need to buy some canvas. Big ones. Hmm, I may take you up on the studio invite, though I wonder if I can paint in the presence of another human being…it’s been so quiet, I’ll probably just talk your ears off.
      Thank you, m’dear, you’re lovely.


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